I realize that the blog entry that I published last night kind of went off the rails. There was so much more that I wanted to talk about! It was late at night, though, and I was probably bouncing back and forth between various web pages an the blog. Today’s blog post is kind of an extension of that, but it’s much more organized and thought out–I even made an outline for it… Part of what prompted me to come back and to write about my own experience with going gluten free was a rather harmless post about a trip to costco.
Who knew there was such a backlash against gluten free?! I was flabbergasted but this isn’t exactly a friend of mine, and his friends and followers are not my friends and followers, so I decided not to waste any more of my time justifying to them why Gluten Free is a valid lifestyle choice–and that it doesn’t necessarily have to be full blown celiac disease to cause someone to start avoiding gluten and other potentially harmful/hard to digest foods.
As many of you know, I’ve been dealing with chronic back pain for about two years now. As I type this, there’s what feels like a knot under my right shoulder blade and my whole back feels stiff. It’s my new normal. This isn’t even enough to complain about. When most people toss and turn at night, they do so without really realizing it. For me, I have to sit all the way up and turn over so that I don’t torque my back trying to just jostle into place. There are times when I wake up in the middle of the night, or in the wee hours of the morning in back pain and I have no choice but to stay up because there’s no going back to sleep at that point. If it’s really too early to get up, then, my poor husband, gets woken up because I’m in such pain. He wakes up when it hurts too bad to breathe right, or when my back pain brings me to tears–and he’ll get up, without complaint, and offer me ice packs or back massages to try to ease the pain. That will work just enough to take the edge off. I try to let him go back to sleep and then I generally go out to the couch to sleep so that I don’t have to lay on my back.
Two years of that.
I have tried to find out what’s wrong with my back–I went to a physician, who referred me to physical therapy–I did that for a while before I was referred to Chiropractic. I’ve been going to the chiropractor at least once/week for the past year and a half. It has helped tremendously in reducing the severity of the pain and I haven’t had many episodes of spasms since starting chiropractic. The problem is that I’m still having to see a chiropractor weekly if I want to avoid a build up of pain in my system. Once, while my chiropractor was out of town for a conference, I had to go about a week and a half, maybe two weeks without an adjustment–and my back locked up so tight and spasmed so much that I gave in and called my physician for muscle relaxers. I took them once. I slept the entire night through without tossing and turning–but when I woke up the next morning, my back hurt so bad from being in the same position the whole night that it took almost all of the next day to start feeling normal again.
And that–is the key. My back feels better when I use my standing station at work (provided I have the right shoes on that day). My back feels better when I move. I talked to my physician about this during last year’s physical. It was a feminine exam and so I told her about my fears–how am I supposed to start a family with my back this way? How can I be reliable and take care of an infant if my back hurts so bad that I can’t even breathe? And do you know what she told me? She said “Try paleo.” I disregarded her at the time because I was stuck on oatmeal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and dinner usually involved pasta with mixed veggies and some meat. I should’ve listened to her back then.
Recently, I came across Nerd Fitness. As I started reading, I started hearing about the benefits of the paleo diet–they’re what you expect from any diet–more energy, better nutrition.. The part that was different, for me, is that it wasn’t specifically designed for weightloss, it was designed for better overall health and well being. That’s what I need. I need health and well being. So, I hopped into the chat rooms in NF. I talked to a few members there about their experiences with Paleo and I heard about reduced pain, reduced acne, increased energy and stamina. I decided to give it a try.
Searching online for paleo plans will turn up any number of results. It quickly became apparent that no one really agrees on what Paleo should really consist of. Some sites say no eggs, others say no dairy, all of them say no legumes but they don’t all agree on what a legume is. It’s enough to make your head spin. Finally, I stumbled upon two very valuable resources. The first was linked yesterday as the “Beginners guide to the paleo diet” by Steve Kamb. The other is Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo. There’s a forward by Robb Wolf (not Stark), and the book dives into the science behind the nutrition. I’m reading about leaky gut right now, which is where there are foods that are harder for your body to break down and they may ‘leak’ through the gut–they’re seen as potential invaders and it triggers an immune response. In fact–the majority of the book is explaining the science behind the nutrition in terms that I can understand. I find myself nodding along and saying ‘that makes sense.’
Since I’m not finished reading the book, and because change is very difficult, we’re not 100% paleo in our house. Both Jeff and I still eat dairy in the form of yogurt and cheese, but we’ve swapped our milk out for coconut milk. The muffins in the picture above were made with coconut flour and they were so delicious. I may make them again this weekend. The pumpkin pancakes in the upper left of the collage have no flour whatsoever and taste like pumpkin french toast. They’re amazing. Although Paleo has a list of foods to avoid that includes peanuts, it’s hard to find trail mix that doesn’t have peanuts in it, so we still have the occasional peanut. We eat a lot of almonds, and I like to eat sunflower seeds. We do a lot of batch cooking on the weekends in order to prep for the week ahead. Being on Paleo means that you have to make your own food because the biggest overarching message is to get away from all of the highly processed, genetically modified, unnatural foods. It’s pretty similar to the Whole Foods diet and the like. Unfortunately, this means that we’re shopping for freggies every weekend, and stocking up on meat when we can. Our grocery bill (for 2 people) has been averaging to be around $450-500/month. I think that there’s a better way to do it, and there are ways to save money, so I have confidence that this figure will come down once we get some consistency.
The first month that we were successfully paleo for the most part, our grocery bill was over $600 for the month. I freaked out because “we don’t have that kind of money! This plan isn’t sustainable!’ Then Jeff pulled up the rest of YNAB and showed me that the month prior, we had spent $200+ on restaurants and $200+ on lunch and $100+ on “spending money” that included food. The month we were successfully paleo? $90 on lunch, $100 on restaurants. So, we have the money, we’ve just been using it to buy the convenience food items that are so readily available in our culture. Going Paleo just means a reallocation of the funds to foods that are worthy of being bought.
My next step in this Paleo adventure is to tackle the elimination diet. I need to figure out what in my diet is causing the chronic inflammation. Is it gluten? Legumes? FODMAPS? sugar? Something else? It’s going to be difficult and there will be a ton of prep work involved, but I think that I can ‘suffer’ for about a month if it means improving my quality of life in the immediate future, and potentially prolonging my life in the long run.
What are your thoughts on the gluten-free craze? Have you ever heard of paleo before? Tell me about your experiences.